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Friendly Spaces That Don’t Fight You

193b5505-09a1-474d-aa76-1aeb801fcef1Maybe it’s because I’m getting older [aren’t we all] but being in restaurants and pubs has grown increasingly alienating.
I’m often having meetings in these spaces and I’m finding the newest ones are the most difficult. With some notable exceptions.
When I’m there, I want to pay attention to the person I’m there to work with [or spend time with – I’m not averse to play]. What makes it hard is distraction or counter influence.
Now to be fair, my ideal is a lite country bistro in Italy. SO, I recognize that’s not likely but some of the features are worth noting.
First, small inviting spaces.
Second, no TVs.
Third, no “music”
Fourth, lots of soft decor and irregular surfaces.

Contrasting that ideal with some of the “difficult” spots I’ve been in lately, I find that I can hear easily, find my attention is not diverted and can relax while being present for what’s going on.
I don’t want to stigmatize any particular newer outlet. I don’t have to – we’re in them all the time. But what doesn’t work?

Barn like open spaces where there’s no division so I’m exposed to everyone in the place, their exclamations and antics, and the noise, the noise! Echoing, overpowering conversation from all sources, pouring in on my hard working, already underpowered receptors.
When that yak is coupled with the ubiquitous “music” that someone decided must be at high volume in every venue, dedicated exchange becomes damn near impossible. These tunes, usually selected to please the staff, not the clientele, is hammered at us, seemingly to defeat interaction or at least to require near shouting to effect it.

And flickering universal TV, often featuring extremely ill-chosen channels. I can understand being surrounded by TV when I choose a sports bar but otherwise? Why would I want to be exposed to the disaster channel [eg. “News”] or in more than one recent improbable urban resto – ultimate fighting? Really? Should my female companion be subjected to 2 near animals in a cage brutalizing each other over our lunch?

We are programmed to be hunters. Any movement attracts our eye. TV, when on, draws our attention – it’s inevitable. Denying that becomes one more distracting element in a world that has many of them.

Lastly, hard surfaces. When I enter a new spot with hard floors, clear drywall and no dividers, I know I’m in for a task. Echoing hammering sound, undiminished by absorbing or diffusing wall decor is a prescription for a tough time tracking what my neighbor is trying to tell me. When walls have sound defracting or absorbing features with lots of pictures or textured surfaces, sound is attenuated and conversation becomes a joy.

“SO, give me an example!” Last night for Valentine’s Evening, Elaine and I went to the new Oriental Phoenix in Silver Springs – pictured above. Pods and booths. Visual dividers with jogs and holes. Quiet music, hardly discernible. No TV – except in the bar, where you’d expect it. Very clever light fixtures that double as sound refractors.

Very pleasant, to say the least. We coordinated our next few months of activity together and celebrated our 40+ years together. And I could understand every word!

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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